The United Nations General Assembly recognizes 17th October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In the same spirit of creating awareness on the need to eradicate poverty and insolvency in our country, OAIC marked the celebrations at its Nairobi offices.

“The Treatment Literacy team” from the Coptic Hospital Nairobi shed light on some of the on-goings in the country that tends to enhance poverty. Through skits, song and dance, the group which interacts with members of the society from the lower living standards and especially in the health sector brought to life the encounters their encounters.

The fact that some selfish medics working in government hospitals have turned the government institutions into cash cows to benefit themselves and their families is enough reason to take action now and not wait until the situation has reached unfathomable heights. The skits portrayed the medical personnel who are responsible for opening up private chemists which they send the patients to buy medicines from after being diagnosed in the government hospitals. The medicines sold in these chemists are meant to be given to patients at subsidized rates yet they are sold privately at exorbitant prices.

Reverend Gichimu of the OAIC read from the book of 1st Corinthians 12:12-24 giving a theological reflection on the Millenium Development Goals. The reverend posed to the church leaders who were present during the celebrations. “We are the are the good Shepherds looked upon by the thousands, millions of Christians, what measures are we talking to ensure that such instances as portrayed in the skit in the various hospitals do not just pass unrecognized and ensure that they are dealt with in the best possible way? I urge all of us to empathize with the realities happening in our society today and decide on the next cause of action. We need unity as the book of Corinthians stipulates that unity makes the body function normally,” stated the Reverend.

Reverend Gichimu referred to the 1st Millenium Development Goal which “seeks to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.” Noting that more than 1 billion people live on less than a dollar per day which makes the numbers to reach heights of well over 2.8 billion which is the world’s half population. The inhumane living conditions have led to the deaths of more than 10 million children annually from hunger and preventable disease. This cannot be ignored any more.

“800 million people go to bed hungry, 18 million people die annually from similar circumstances and this means that 50,000 people die every day. Considering the statistics we all know that there is still uncaptured data which shows the grievance of the situation at hand. How do you proclaim the good news to hungry souls? These people ravaged by illnesses day in day out and yet they cannot get proper health care? Church leaders it’s a high time we made a difference in our various congregations which will then be replicated the world over as the church should provide leadership in such areas,” urged reverend Gichimu.

John 1: 5-14 stipulates that prayer should be supported by action. “As church leaders and congregants at large let us engage the people in ensuring that they are knowledgeable about the constitution which in the Bill of Rights clearly stated that every soul has a right to food, clean water and housing and lead them towards the right cause of action. Advocacy is vital, we need to ask Caesar what he did with the taxes,” urged the Reverend.

“We try to pray through our work by doing it with Jesus, for Jesus, to Jesus that helps us put our whole heart and soul into doing it. The dying, the crippled, the mentally ill, the unwanted, the unloved – they are Jesus in disguise,” the reverend completed his sermon with a quote from mother Teresa.

“APC theatrics” a local talented group did a magnificent piece of narration giving an analogy of a village which was ravaged by hunger, having no food to eat decided to commit an offense which was considered taboo and they had to pay the price.

The trouble in the village which had no food to eat started when everyone who felt they were hungry and could not persevere any more chose to eat the only animal left in the village – the hyena – . It was taboo to eat the hyena which in a local dialect is referred to as “Ondiek Marach”. Slowly by slowly the villagers gave themselves reasons to start scheming of ways to kill the hyena while justifying their actions. They eventually ate the hyena and the repercussions were running stomachs for a long time and other mishaps in their lives as the hyena’s meat is not fit for human consumption. The analogy here was meant to drive home the point that people are aware that corruption, murder, rape and other viles in society are unjustifiable yet continue to encourage and partake in the various vices justifying their actions as well as taking comfort that no one is watching and that they were untouchable.

The truth of the matter is that there will come a time when all the atrocities committed will require answers from the perpetrators for instance justice from the International courts like the International Criminal Court and thereon everyone will be required to carry their own cross.

Reverend Phyllis Bird the Director of Just Communities Programme at the OAIC was categorical that it was useless for people to congregate on such dates (Read 17th   October) if they do not leave with anything meaningful to take action against poverty.  That it should be the lifestyle for everyone who cares about the welfare of their brothers and sisters to ensure that the international day to eradicate poverty is not just one day, and forget about it but rather it should be a lifestyle to ensure that we live everyday engaging in actions that will eventually eradicate poverty amongst our neighborhoods.

She further urged everyone to change the acronym of the MDG’s to My Divine Goals which means the interventions which they would each do as part of their everyday lifestyles that would ensure that everyone takes responsibility to eradicate poverty and not leave it to “other people”.

“Church leaders have the greatest responsibility to ensuring that poverty is tackled. I challenge the haves and have nots to come together and think together. We have a situation where the have’s are condemned for being corrupt and selfish. Lets us all call for economic reforms. Look at the examples in Libya, Syria, the protests on Wall Street and others I am reminded in the bible during the 700 BC during the time of prophet Ezekiel who was considered the mouth piece of God. Ezekiel was against the ‘powers that be’ then which were hedged on ensuring that the poor remained poor and had total disregard for justice,” stated Reverend Phyllis.

“Our God is a radical God. He says “I am fed up with how you treat the poor and the downcast. I will no longer tolerate such leaders,” she stated.

The Reverend urged everyone to put on the boxing gloves and join the campaign to wage war on poverty. “Christians let us wake up and stop being a senebulese church. A senebulese church basically means that Christians are sleep walkers. Having been subjected to difficult situations Christians are also part of society that is so used to the poverty situation that they condemn themselves to accepting the deplorable conditions. Consoling themselves that it is okay to be poor as that’s just the way it is. That is not what the bible is saying. Let the bible be our guide to our lives from the “isness to oughtness.” Let’s make a difference today and for we serve a great God,” urged Reverend Phyllis.

Charles Abugure from the United Nations Millenium Campaign office in a message from the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon pointed out that people the world over live in constant fear of losing jobs, fear of lack of money to feed their families, depreciating health conditions and loss of dignity.

He stated that it was paramount that everyone became responsible for taking charge and ensuring that the time for the eradication poverty was nigh. He recounted how in the 70’s there protests called to end poverty which necessitated the creation by the UN the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

“This day does not belong to the government and the rich people. It belongs to everyone who sees the problem in the deplorable conditions that most of society is subjected to. The Structural Adjustment Programmes SAPS – which was meant to help the various economies turned out to be a disaster for various reasons,” he stated.

The governments should be able to create an environment for business where the private sector can chip in and make the lives of the people better. The dilapidated government hospitals and other basic structures are the way they are because of the lack of seriousness by the various governments. Where do the taxes collected go? He was saddened by the fact that the richest people in various countries were the politicians yet the purpose of politics was to serve not to enrich oneself.

“This is the norm everywhere. In Mozambique, the president owns the Port! The Prime minister and the cabinet ministers own the banks and other social amenities, I ask where is the private sector in all these?” posed Charles.

“During the elections we see them giving people the sugar and small monies rather than stating their achievements and re-dedicating towards making their lives better. In Kenya’s informal settlements you call them “flying toilets” in my country Ghana, we call them “wrap and throw”. These situations are everywhere. Governments should ensure that the citizens don’t live like pigs in deplorable conditions but ensure that hunger puns are dealt with and deal with the systems that have failed it’s people for a long time,” he stated.

He added that Kenya was not a poor country considering the sufficient rainfall that the country gets vis a vis the fertile lands and this should be reasons enough to end poverty in the country.

Noting that it was a sad situation that when everyone else was called upon to pay taxes, the richest politicians are not themselves paying the taxes.

“Change will not happen if we sit and wait,” stated Charles.

By Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications

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